Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

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A lifelong disease that affects the way your body deals with glucose, type 2 diabetes affects upwards of 27 million people in the world with another 86 million having pre-diabetes; a condition where blood glucose levels are abnormal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes.

Symptoms

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be so subtle that you might not even notice them.

  • Blurred vision
  • Easily irritable
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Going to the bathroom to pee a lot
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
  • Reoccurring yeast infections
  • Often feeling worn out
  • Wounds that refuse to heal

What Causes Diabetes?

The pancreas produces an essential hormone called insulin which allows your cells to convert glucose from the food you eat and the beverages you drink into energy.

For people with type 2 diabetes the body still produces insulin, but their cells don’t make use of it as efficiently as they should, causing a condition known as insulin resistance.

At the onset, the pancreas tries to compensate by producing extra insulin to try to get glucose into the cells. Eventually, it simply can’t keep pace, and sugar builds up to dangerous levels in your blood.

There are several factors that can contribute to the occurrence of type 2 diabetes, including:

  • Being Overweight. Those extra pounds you’re carrying around the waist can cause insulin resistance. In fact, type 2 diabetes can affect kids and teens dealing with childhood obesity.
  • Genes. The makeup of your DNA can affect how your body makes insulin–and it can be passed on from one generation to the next, though it doesn’t always manifest itself.
  • Broken beta cells. When the specially designed cells responsible for producing insulin become damaged, they can produce the wrong amount of insulin, or even produce it at the wrong time, which can throw off your blood sugar levels.
  • Metabolic Syndrome. Sometimes insulin resistance manifests itself due to a grouping of conditions including, excess weight, high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, as well as high cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Excess Glucose from the Liver. The liver, when it detects that your blood sugar is low, produces and sends out more glucose to compensate. Following a meal, your blood sugar rises, at which point the liver will slow down the production and store its glucose for later. Unfortunately, some people’s livers don’t stop producing sugar when it should.
  • Poor Cell Communication. Sometimes cells get their signals mixed up or they misinterpret the messages–a worrisome problem that affects how your cells perform and can directly lead to diabetes.

Risk Factors

None of these mean you’ll get diabetes, but they are all things you should consider as factors to consider.

  • Age: 45 or older
  • Ethnicity: Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Latino, or African-American
  • Heredity: A parent, sister, or brother with diabetes

Health and medical conditions, some of which your doctor may be able to treat:

  • Prediabetes,
  • Being overweight or obese,
  • High blood pressure, even if it’s treated and under control,
  • Heart and blood vessel disease,
  • Low HDL (“good”) cholesterol,
  • High triglycerides,
  • Having a baby that weighs over 4kg (9 lbs),
  • Having gestational diabetes during pregnancy,
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS),
  • Depression,
  • Acanthosis nigricans, a skin condition that causes dark rashes around your neck or armpits.

Habits and lifestyle. You can do something about these!

  • Getting little or no exercise
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Stress
  • Smoking

Prevention

Forget the past and focus on the future. Listen to your doctor, stay on top of your medications.

Here are some other helpful things you can do.

  • Eat right. Stay away from both trans and saturated fats, sugary drinks, processed carbs and reign in your intake of both red meat and processed meat.
  • Ditch that Extra Weight. Shaving off just 7% to 10% can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 50%.
  • Get Active! Moving muscles uses insulin, they love it. You can cut your risk by almost a third by just getting out for thirty minutes of brisk walking every day.
  • Quit smoking. Do we really need to explain this one?

Getting a Diagnosis

Your doctor can test your blood for signs of diabetes. Usually doctors will test you on two different days to confirm the diagnosis. But if your blood glucose is very high or you have a lot of symptoms, one test may be all you need.

  • A1C: It’s like an average of your blood glucose over the past two to three months.
  • Fasting plasma glucose: This measures your blood sugar on an empty stomach. You won’t be able to eat or drink anything except water for eight hours before the test.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): This checks your blood glucose before and two hours after you drink a sweet drink to see how your body handles the sugar.

Long-Term Consequences

If left untreated, over time, high blood sugar can damage and cause problems with your:

  • Eyes,
  • Heart,
  • Kidneys,
  • Blood vessels,
  • Ability to heal wounds,
  • Nerves,
  • Digestion,
  • Sexual activity,
  • Pregnancy.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the best way to avoid complications is a good insulin management regiment.

  • Stay on top of your blood glucose levels.
  • Make sure you take your medications and insulin on time.
  • Don’t skip meals and make sure you eat right.
  • See your doctor on a regular basis.

For the most up to date and most accurate information we highly recommend you consult your health care provider.

Reviewed by Dr. Zuraima Corona Rodriguez

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